Tacoma Business Council announcement.
On September 1, 2022, TBC met with Mayor Victoria Woodards, City Manager Elizabeth Pauli, Tacoma City Attorney, Bill Fosbre and the Supervisor of the Criminal Division, Paul Goulding. TBC asked for this meeting because the City Attorney has jurisdiction over misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors including some of the property and other crimes plaguing the business community. At the meeting, the City Attorney presented an overview of how the office works, how charging decisions are made, charging trends and data on property and drug possession crimes.
The City Attorney indicated that bringing in Paul Goulding in July of this year to supervise the criminal division reflected a renewed focus and commitment to charging misdemeanor crimes.
However, despite best efforts to hold criminals accountable, the current policy at that jail poses a significant barrier to achieving that goal. Currently, other than DUI and DV, the jail generally is not holding persons charged with misdemeanors. We were told that currently there are only approximately 30 persons being held in the county jail on misdemeanor charges. While officers can plead for an exception, the default is to hold only those charged with the most serious felonies. That policy has a damaging ripple effect impacting the willingness of police officers to make arrests for misdemeanors. The data bears that out. In the first six months of this year only 1823 matters were referred by TPD to the City Attorney for prosecution. In contrast, TPD referred 3,535 matters over the same time frame in 2019.
The City attorney also touched on the effect of the 2021 State Supreme Court decision which declared Washington’s drug possession statute unconstitutional, effectively decriminalizing drug possession in Washington. While a new statute has been enacted which makes possession of certain drugs and in certain quantities unlawful, these violations are generally misdemeanors. Furthermore, arrests for possession are made even more difficult under the statute because of limitations which require multiple offenses and other prerequisites to arrest that make it virtually impossible to arrest and successfully charge a drug possession crime. The result of all this is apparent on our streets.
The jail policy stems from an order from the head of Tacoma/Pierce County Department of Health, Dr. Anthony Chen, limiting the number of people at the jail due to Covid protocols. While the jail has capacity to hold 1,700 people, under this policy only 600 are currently housed there. It was noted that when this prohibition was lifted in the spring, there was a direct impact on the rate of crime as it had decreased substantially. Mayor Woodards committed to following up with Dr. Chen to gain an understanding of the necessity for this restriction.
SEPTEMBER 8 UPDATE: Kenny Via, Content Manager for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department states, “We do not have a health order in place restricting the jail, or any specific restrictions. Our team works closely with jail officials to interpret CDC and DOH guidelines. We make recommendations based on the number of COVID-19 cases or level of spread in a facility.”
IMPORTANT NEW PROGRAM TO HELP BUSINESSES EXPERIENCING CRIME – SUBMIT A REQUEST OR AN AREA CPTED ANALYSIS.
TBC is partnering with the City to help find locations where an Area CPTED could be employed to help prevent crime. CPTED stands for Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design and involves focusing on the design of the built environment to reduce both crime and the fear of crime. The main objective of CPTED is to reduce or remove the opportunity for crime to occur in an environment and promote positive interaction with the space by legitimate users. An “area CPTED” involves analyzing a defined area including the exterior of buildings (whether public or private), undeveloped property and rights of way in the area to see if there are design changes that could be implemented to help prevent crime. The City has offered to analyze areas of up to “one block” from a CPTED perspective.
HOW TO APPLY: If you believe the area around your business might benefit from this analysis, take the following steps; (1) Enter a request into See! Click! Fix!. (2) select the request type called Crime Prevention through Environmental Design Survey. (3) where it asks “how did you hear about us” put gin that you are a member of the Tacoma Business Council. The City is able to conduct one CPTED Area analysis a month on a first come first served basis. Please understand, that for the City to do this all of the businesses and property owners in the area would need to agree to the analysis of their properties. The City will do this work for free.
Contact us for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.